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U.S. sanctions target corruption, Russian operations in Moldova

file photo: leader of the democratic party of moldova vladimir plahotniuc delivers a speech during a rally in chisinau
Leader of the Democratic Party of Moldova Vladimir Plahotniuc delivers a speech during a rally demanding a creation of parliament coalition, in Chisinau, Moldova June 9, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on individuals and entities involved in what it described as Russia’s malign influence operations in Moldova as well as systemic corruption in the small eastern European country.

The individuals sanctioned, a mix of Russian and Moldovan officials, include oligarchs “widely recognized for capturing and corrupting Moldova’s political and economic institutions and those acting as instruments of Russia’s global influence campaign,” the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.

Moldova, which borders Ukraine and Romania, applied for European Union membership this year and strongly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, moves that angered Moscow.

The designations include former Moldovan parliament member Vladimir Plahotniuc, who has manipulated “key sectors of Moldova’s government, including the law enforcement, electoral and judicial sectors,” the statement said.

Another person targeted is exiled opposition politician Ilan Shor, whose supporters marched through the former Soviet republic’s capital for the sixth consecutive Sunday this week to denounce Moldova’s pro-Western leaders. Shor, convicted of fraud in 2017 in connection with a $1 billion bank scandal, lives in Israel.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu said Shor was trying to destabilise the country and undermine its EU membership bid.

“I thank all those who contributed to the punishment of corrupt officials,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

“I hope that these (sanctions) … will serve as an example for the Moldovan judicial system, which has sabotaged and delayed criminal prosecutions, court cases, corruption prosecutions and the recovery of money from Plahotniuc, Shor and other corrupt officials,” she said.

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